Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jonathan Bowman Piano Recital

Jonathan Bowman is a dear friend of mine who is currently studying at the famous Eastman School of Music (you can view Jonathan's website here). Jonathan and I attended Brigham Young University together where he completed his degree in music and I in engineering. We both studied piano with Dr. Paul Pollei, the founder of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation. Last night I had the pleasure of attending one of Jonathan's recitals. He is in town for the holidays and planned an informal recital for local friends and family to attend. Typically when I post about a performance I will dive right into the works and the music from the evening... however, I'd like to take a moment to better describe Jonathan and the wonderful musician that he is.

About the Performer
As I mentioned, Jonathan and I studied piano together at BYU. We were a few years apart in age and he was not yet an official student of the university but attended master classes as directed by Dr. Paul Pollei. I got to know Jonathan better than I did some of the others in the class because I had the opportunity of chatting with him after master class while he would wait for his father to come and pick him up. The first work that I heard Jonathan perform was Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata. I remember this specifically because I was so deeply impressed by the technical skill that he demonstrated in the third movement. The second piece I heard him perform (also in master class) was Liszt's Totentanz Concerto. I was still fairly new to the world of classical piano at that time and so I hadn't heard that piece before (now I have at least 5 different recordings and have heard it performed dozens of times ;) ). I will never forget watching as this timid, shy, young man slowly made his way to the piano, quietly introduced the work, paused briefly, and then hammered his fingers onto the keys with an unbelievable force that disrupted my entire image of what was about to occur. As I listened to Jonathan perform that evening I fell in love with that composition and was left with a powerful impression of Jonathan's music that still reverberates inside me.

Now Jonathan is working on his Master's and Doctorate degrees, has a beautiful family, and displays a great confidence and enthusiasm for his hard-earned talents. I always enjoy hearing him perform and was delighted to receive an invitation to last night's event.

About the Performance
Jonathan's recital included 4 works - skillfully selected and wonderfully executed. He opened with Scriabin's Etude in C-sharp Minor (Op 42, No. 5) which demonstrated his excellent technique and dynamics. He then performed Bach's Toccata in C minor which demonstrated his intellect and mental capacities for music. He then played three excerpts from a transcription of Stravinsky's "Firebird". Although I have a great appreciation for Stravinsky and what he contributed to music, I have struggled to connect with his music. However, Jonathan made me rethink my position on Stravinsky and his performance of the Suite sparked my interest. Had the evening ended at that point, I would have left a very satisfied listener. Fortunately, he had one more work to perform - Liszt's "Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude" ("The Blessing of God in Solitude).

About Liszt's Work
"Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude" is one of the works that makes up Liszt's "Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses" (Harmonies of Poetry and Religion). These are deeply meditative, introspective works that represent Liszt, his beliefs, his sorrows, joys, and everything that made him such a complex human being. Throughout the course of these wonderful compositions Liszt emotionally, mentally, and spiritually strips himself down to the core and puts himself on display through music - hiding nothing. Some of my greatest spiritual experiences through music have come as a result of these amazing works. So I was thrilled to see that Jonathan was including this piece as a part of his performance. This work was inspired by a poem by Lamartine (who was inspiration to many of Liszt's works) that reads as follows (English translation):

Whence comes, O God, this peace which floods over me?
Whence comes this faith with which my heart overflows
To me who, not long ago, uncertain, restless
And tossed on waves of doubt by every wind
Sought the good, the true, in the dreams of worldy sages
And peace in hearts resounding with tempests
Scarcely have a few days brushed past my brow
And it seems that a century and a world have passed away
And that, separated from them by an immense abyss
A new man is reborn and begins again in me.

The words and meaning of this poem are echoed through Liszt's music. I was deeply touched as I listened to Jonathan peform this great work. I was moved near to tears as I contemplated the thoughts, emotions, and circumstances that may have inspired its composition. I was reminded of the important role that music must play in our lives - as a conduit to allow the heart to express what words cannot; and to impress upon the soul the things that language inadequately communicates. Music should not be viewed merely as entertainment that tickles the ears and moves the feet; but as an art that touches the heart and lifts the soul; as an expression that opens the mind and bonds the hearts of man to God.

To Jonathan: Thank you for allowing me to be inspired and uplifted once again through great music. It means even more when such a performance comes from a friend. I look forward to the next opportunity I have to be a part of your musical journey.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bach's Partita No. 1 Sarabande Dedicated to Kent Passey

Here is another work by J.S. Bach to accompany the Minuet from last week. This one is another excerpt from a longer work (as Victor Borge used to joke - because I can't play the whole thing). It is the Sarabande from his Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major. The entire work is marvelous, as are most of Bach's compositions. However, this particular section has always been among my favorite pieces of music to play. I've never performed this one publicly but have reserved it for those times when my heart needs to express what my mind cannot... and for when my spirit has something to ponder or meditate upon. The melody is simple, the chords are expressive, and like wonderful poetry, there is so much room for personal emotion and thought to come out. I am indebted to Bach for producing such inspirational music.

This recording is dedicated to a good friend of mine, Kent Passey. His family used to live across the street from us and our kids played together frequently. They moved out a while back, but we still get the chance to get together once in a while. A few days ago he stopped by with the kids and we had a moment to catch up. I was reminded of the important role that true friendship plays in our lives. Our society is founded upon relationships - some strong, others weak; some direct, others are subtle; some are intimate while others are awkward; but our entire culture and society is woven by the threads of relationships between each of us. Kent and his children have been an important thread in the relationships that make up my family's life and so I dedicate this recording to him as a show of appreciation.

You can download a copy of this recording by visiting my Lisztonian website or by clicking here. You may also subscribe to my free iTunes podcast or use the embedded media player below to listen online. I suggest subscribing to my podcast so that you can automatically download any new recordings as they come out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bach's Menuet in G dedicated to Kari Rasi.....whatever

I love Bach! Who doesn't? He is the supreme musician... the man to whom all musicians pay daily homage. Every day that I have time to play the piano I always include at least something composed by this amazing individual. Quite often if I am having a rough or stressful day, I'll pull out the theme to his Golberg Variations to calm my soul and settle my nerves. When I feel a need to reflect deeply on my life and explore new perspectives, I'll put in a recording of his Mass in B Minor, or perhaps his Chaconne in D (Bussoni's transcription). If I feel like improvising, I'll often take some of the beautiful chord progressions from any of his works and use that as the basis for my own creative sessions. I use his scores as the subject for study in all aspects of music. Bach is unchallenged as the greatest musical genius...

Now that I've introduced the composer, I will take just a moment to introduce the work. This recording is the very famous Minuet (or Menuet) in G. It is a very short piece and is actually an excerpt from a larger work titled Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. It is an upbeat tune that is great for a quick pick-me-up. I don't consider this one of his greatest works, but it is popular and easy to learn so I recorded it :)


I am dedicating this recording to Kari Rasi-Koskinen. He is a talented individual who's personality fits this composition quite well. He is always an optimist and wears a smile no matter what the situation. Kari, thanks for bringing a ray of sunshine into the lives of all those with whom you come in contact... including my own.

This recording was performed at my home on my studio upright. You can download a copy of this recording as an MP3 or WMA by clicking here or by visiting my Lisztonian website. I encourage you to subscribe to my free iTunes podcast so that you don't miss out on any of my recordings! You may also use the embedded media player below to listen to this recording online.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gabriel Faure - Romance sans Paroles

This is my second recording of a piece by Gabriel Faure. It is called Romance sans Paroles (Romance without Words). It is a beautiful little piece. I feel as though I am dragging a bit too much in this recording. I also must have had the audio adjusted incorrectly because when I play it in iTunes it cracks during the louder parts. Oh well, It's free!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Piano Society

Several months ago I came across an excellent resource for piano music called The Piano Society. They "audition" artists to put some of their recordings online, essentially creating a massive database of recordings. They also provide royalty free sheet music for the works where possible.

Over the weekend I decided to try my hand at an "audition" so I submitted three of my recordings. I was pleased to find out that they accepted me as an official artist and my recordings have now been posted to the site!

To the piano society, I say "thank you" for providing the public with such an excellent resource and for allowing me to be a part of it. You can read my artist bio here. Be sure to visit their site regularly to enjoy the great service(s) that they offer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stephen Beus - Gina Bachauer "Piano Gold" Performance

Yesterday I received an email from Dr. Paul Pollei reminding me about the Bachauer Concert Series performance that would be going on this evening. For some reason, I neglected to get this on my calendar and so I hadn't even purchased tickets yet! It is a good thing he called, otherwise I would have missed a most spectacular performance!

This evening I had the extreme pleasure of attending the "Piano Gold" performance by Stephen Beus, sponsored by the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation. What an amazing event! Stephen performed a perfect blend of music for his program. He opened with Bach's English Suite in G Minor - which awakened my senses. Bach is dear to my heart (as he is to virtually all musicians) and this performance was worthy of the greatest praise.

He then performed a piece that I was previously unfamiliar with, by Medtner - Sonata-Tragica (Op. 39, No. 5). Wow! I will promptly be purchasing a recording of this work so that I can appreciate it even more. Stephen played this with the power and force that is typical of his great musicianship. He followed this piece with one from my favorite composer, The Great Franz Liszt - La Campanella. His interpretation and the color that he added to this was marvelous! I have no hesitation in saying that this was my favorite performance of this work. I particularly loved how he played with some of the trills in this work.

He closed with one of my favorite Beethoven Sonatas - the Hammerklavier! It was pure joy to participate in this performance - and I use the word "participate" intentionally. Stephen has a way of drawing in his audience and he certainly did that this evening. His performance was a masterwork of art and entertainment.

Please visit Stephen Beus' website and support his artistry and career!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Optimum time to start piano lessons?

I am a member of a piano group on LinkedIn and one of the members recently posted a question that I have been asked by several friends and associates -- "when should I start my kids in piano lessons? How old is old enough?" This is a great question, and, like you would probably guess, there is no right answer. Every child is different. However, here are some of my thoughts on the matter...

How do you define "lessons"? I have three children ages 5, 3, and 22 months and all three of them are playing the piano at various levels, all of them are learning musically, but none of them are currently taking formal "lessons". I believe that a parent (or a good teacher) can teach children of ALL ages to be involved with the piano. At the very least, children should be involved in some type of music creativity. They might surprise you at what they can do with just a little encouragement. Let me give you some examples from things I've done with my children:

  • My youngest LOVES to sit with me at the piano and play along while I practice. You can see a picture of this on my profile picture :) This is a great way to form a closeness with your child while allowing them to become familiar with the geography of the piano and basics of how the piano works.
  • I will often get my children together and let them pick a simple tune (ie "I've been working on the Railroad"). I will then let them take turns picking animals and I will play the tune so that it sounds like that animal (as best as I can) while the kids act out the part - they LOVE this game! It gives me the opportunity to practice improvisation and transposition, while the kids get to have fun and hear how music can affect our moods and can represent feelings/characters.
  • I've already started my two oldest in learning Hanon. This provides fairly simple patterns that they can learn and practice to gain finger dexterity and familiarity with the piano. Beginning them in scales and chords is also quite simple. Just take it slow, be patient, and understand that all children go at their own pace.
  • Sometimes I find a song that my kids like (a Disney song, or something on the radio) and then I'll teach them just a few notes of the chorus. As an example, I taught my three-year old son to play the opening notes to the theme from the Pixar movie, "Cars". He loves to play it :)
  • I NEVER ask my children to stop playing the piano. If they hop on the bench (which they will randomly do throughout the day) then I let them just explore and play. Doing this, my daughter composed her first song a couple of weeks ago and entered into the national reflection's contest. You can hear a recording of her playing it here.
  • I also often let my kids listen to recordings of great pianists playing short pieces of music and then ask the kids to talk about what they imagined while they listened. This is a great way to get their imaginations running and invites in creativity through music.
  • Of course, there are also the formal sit-down lessons that I've done mostly with my oldest child. This is a great time to talk about chords, scales, dynamics, etc (in ways that children can understand). I think that even 10 minutes a week, with encouragement to practice (or "play") daily, will work wonders on a child.

So my official answer is, "It is NEVER too early to get your children involved with music/piano". As far as "formal" lessons - I guess that depends on how comfortable you are with getting them involved in your home, your financial situation, and the ability of the teacher. If you don't feel comfortable trying some of the ideas I've suggested above and you can afford lessons, then get your kids involved with a good teacher right away. Find somebody who can do some of the simple ideas I suggest, or that has lots of great ideas for kids that gets them involved and excited about the piano!

I hope that helps somebody!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Farewell Waltz by Chopin Dedicated to the IT Faculty at BYU

Marie Wodzinska
This is my first recording of a Chopin Waltz. This particular Waltz (A-flat Op. 69, No. 1) is one of Chopin's better-known waltzes. As with many of his popular pieces, this work was published posthumously (after he had passed away). It is often called L'adieu, or The Farewell Waltz as a result of its origin. Chopin wrote the piece as a farewell to Marie Wodzinska (pictured to the right) to whom he was once engaged. Chopin was deeply in love with Marie, but her parents did not approve of Chopin's less-than-favorable financial circumstances. Thus the engagement was called off. Chopin was heartbroken and wrote this Waltz to his love, Marie, as a farewell.

In my recording I made every attempt to bring out the melancholy, the longing, and nostalgic reminiscence that I imagine would accompany such a sad parting.


This piece is dedicated to the faculty of the IT program at Brigham Young University. I spent 6 of the most critical years of my life under their watchful care and inspired instruction. I often reflect on the impact that each of them had on my education and personal growth. Although many of the professors I encountered during my education were wonderful, I was particularly appreciative to those of the IT program. I received my bachelor's degree in IT and my Master's in the Technology program so I had the opportunity to work closely with many of the faculty members. Each of them played an important role in my education.

Education is something I consider extremely important to individual growth and to the general improvement of our society. Without excellent teachers and mentors, it would be difficult to pursue a solid education. It is thanks to these willing and dedicated individuals that I personally have prospered and that thousands of others have benefited as well.

To them I say, "Bravo!"


This recording was made at my home on my studio upright. You can download this recording in the form of MP3 or WMA on my Lisztonian site. You may also subscribe to my free iTunes podcast which makes it easy to stay updated when I release new recordings. If you'd rather just have a quick listen, you can use the embedded media player below (I recommend downloading the full files from my Lisztonian site for better playback).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween!

In celebration of halloween I wrote an arrangement of Bach's famous Toccata in D-Minor! I was going to record it, but ended up playing it as a guest performance for my sister's recital. So I decided to post the video instead. So here is my personal arrangement of Bach's Toccata in D-Minor - shortened significantly so that it wouldn't get too boring ;)

Oh, and the green cape was my halloween costume - I struggled last minute to find something so I just threw on my son's cape from last year's costume :) Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

John Field Nocturne in D Minor Dedicated to Joe Winther and Mike Goulding

This is my first recording by the lesser-known composer, John Field. Field was a talented pianist and composer and the world of romantic music owes a great deal to this man - he was the first to invent the "Nocturne" style of music. When one thinks of "Nocturne" the first composer one thinks of is, of course, Frederic Chopin. It was actually at a performance of Field's where Chopin was inspired by his new style of music (the Nocturne) and subsequently went on to write some of the most popular nocturnes in romantic music - all thanks to John Field.

I am dedicating this recording to Joe Winther and Mike Goulding - two friends and colleagues in my profession. I dedicate this recording to them because I think they can relate somewhat to this fine composer. Mike and Joe are the system administrators for the public company, aVinci Media. All IT personnel across the nation can probably relate to John Field because they are all under appreciated :) These are the people who keep our modern systems, networks, and technology alive and running! Unfortunately, they typically don't get recognized until something breaks, and then the recognition is not all that positive. So, like John Field, they work day after day contributing to the fundamentals of our modern lives, yet being given much less credit and positive recognition than they deserve! So, Mike and Joe, I dedicate this recording to you as my show of appreciation to the excellent work that you perform each day!

You can download this recording here or from my free iTunes podcast. You may also use the embedded player below to listen online. I hope you enjoy my recording of John Field's Nocturne in D Minor (Hopk. 59A: 13)!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fur Elise - Bagatelle in A Minor

A few months ago one of my cousins specifically requested that I record Beethoven's famous "Fur Elise"... so here it is!

You can read about some of the historical background on this piece here. This is definitely one of the most famous (if not THE most famous) classical piano works. Beethoven would probably be quite surprised to discover the popularity of this piece - and perhaps a bit dissappointed that it has overshadowed all of his masterpieces in popularity. Nonetheless, I agreed with my cousin that this is an important work to add to my podcast.

You can download this recording as well as all of my recordings by subscribing to my free iTunes podcast. Or, if you prefer, you can download the MP3 or WMA file directly here. Use the embedded player below to listen online.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Korean Cats

My 5-year old daughter just finished recording her first composition :) She composed it entirely on her own. I had her play it three times while recording, and then she listened to all three and decided that this was the one she liked most. She wrote it in celebration of her heritage, of which she is 1/2 Korean, and titled it "Korean Cats".

You can listen to her first composition by using the embedded media player below:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Andantino by Cesar Franck

I'm finally back! The last couple of months have been extremely long.... having a broken foot is definitely not something I would recommend (particulary the right foot) - especially if you enjoy playing the piano or driving.

Today's recording is my first work by Cesar Franck. It is a short and simple melody that hides within it Franck's love for organ music. The keyboard technique for this piece is relatively simple, yet reminiscent of an organ work.

I hope that you enjoy this recording! I know that I enjoyed finally being able to record something again. You can download a copy of this recording by visiting this page or by subscribing to my free iTunes podcast. You can also use the embedded media player below to listen online.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Look!

I decided to abandon the old Lisztonian look and feel and switched it up a bit last night. Take a look at the new site (www.lisztonian.com) and feel free to leave me some feedback!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why I Love Recording at Home

I love recording at home. Despite my piano being less-than-perfect, I enjoy being close to my family and recording in a comfortable environment. When I first started recording I would insist on the house being perfectly quiet, or record only when my whole family was gone. I have since learned to deal with, and even enjoy the occasional interruption while recording. Obviously it slows things down a bit, but it is just so enjoyable being able to be near the family while I'm playing the music I love. It makes a difference in my emotions while making the music, which, I would hope, comes out in the recordings in a good way :)

During my last recording session the kids were all watching a movie in another room. Mid-way through the piece, my youngest boy came out and decided to "help" by hitting a few of the keys that he apparently thought I was missing. This sort of "interruption" has become common - but reminds me of how much I love my family. So I thought I'd share this little event with my readers. Use the embedded player below to hear my youngest son helping me with my recording:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C# minor Op 66
Dedicated to my cousin, Krissie

Okay, so I've taken a small break - quite literally - from music. I say that my break is literal, because I broke my foot :( So not only have I been in bed with my foot up much of the time, but I also can't really play the piano because I can't keep my foot comfortable under the piano for more than a couple of minutes (plus I am completely unable to use the damper pedal).

Fortunately, I had recorded Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu a couple of weeks ago. I wrestled with whether or not I would release this one, because, quite honestly, I am so displeased with my playing of it. But I decided that I'd better put something out on my website since it has been a whole month since my last release, and it will likely be another month until my next :(

Photograph of Chopin,
courtesy wikipedia.org
About the Composition
This fantasy-impromptu (C-sharp minor) is a popular work and is frequently performed at recitals and competitions. Those of you who have heard this work and enjoy it might be surprised to learn that this composition was never published until after Chopin had died - so it was published "posthumously". In fact, Chopin had instructed one of his pupils to destroy the work! This is only one of several of Chopin's compositions that were published posthumously, only to become some of his most popular works. So why did he avoid publishing it? I suppose we will never know for certain, but most musical historians speculate that it was due to a fear of being labeled as a plagerizer of the great Beethoven! In the third movement of Beethoven's famous "Moonlight" sonata, there is a mini cadenza around measure 187 that is identical to the passage that is repeated throughout Chopin's fantasy, that first appears in measures 7-8. It is 100% identical! Was this intentional? Did he "steal" Beethoven's idea? I am confident in saying that he did NOT. I am certain that this is merely a coincidence. Even if Chopin did borrow the passage from Beethoven, it does not diminish value of the remaining 130 or so measures of the fantasy :)

I am dedicating this recording to my cousin, Krissie, who (like me) is currently suffering the trials of a broken foot. In fact, her situation is 10-fold worse than my own. To her husband, Jared, I apologize for yet another recording of a work by that "Chopin guy"!

This recording was completed at my home on my studio upright piano. You can listen to this recording by using the embedded media player below. You may also download this recording to your computer (or ipod/etc) which will provide you with a much better playback experience. To download this as an MP3 or WMA visit this page of my lisztonian website. You are also welcome to subscribe to my iTunes podcast - it is completely free - which will keep you updated when I release new recordings. I hope you enjoy my recording of Frederic Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu in C# minor!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mendelssohn Op. 38, No. 6 "Duet" Dedicated to My Sister Jenifer

Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words (Opus 38) is one of his most popular works for piano. Number 6, "Duet" or "Duetto" is arguably one of his most beautiful compositions. It is a love song between two voices accompanied by a moving bass and quiet hand. Each voice has it's turn for solo expression and then they both intertwine for a most impressive climax before coming to a distinct and gorgeous conclusion. You can read my additional commentary on this piece by visting this download page for the selection on my Lisztonian website.

This recording is dedicated to my oldest sister, Jenifer (pay careful attention to the one-'n' spelling!). Jenifer is the oldest of five children and has always been a leader and guide to the rest of us.

Growing up, Jenifer was a great inspiration to me. I remember sitting on her bed night after night as she would do homework at her desk, listening to me chatter about unimportant things. This became quite the routine for the two of us. I'm not sure why she put up with it for so long, considering I was always slowing down her ability to get her schoolwork done - but she was always patient and loving towards me.

Jenifer always brings laughter and joy to all situations, no matter how difficult or hard it may be. She also takes the time to share other's burdens and make everybody feel important. I can always look to Jenifer to provide a good outlook on life, to uplift, and to encourage.

I am dedicating this recording to Jenifer for several reasons. She was the first to introduce me to this composition several years ago. She brought me a copy of it one day and mentioned that she thought I would like it. I played through it several times, and again maybe once or twice over the span of the next several years. I always considered it a beautiful piece of music. However, it wasn't until just a month or two ago that I "fell in love" with the piece. I pulled it out and decided it was time to invest more study into it and so I got out my trusty red and gray pencils and began reading through the score while marking the things I noticed. As I did this, I couldn't help but think of my sister and the wonderful influence she has been in my life. So it is with great love and sincerity that I dedicate the recording of Mendelssohn's popular "Duet" to my sister, Jenifer.

To listen to this recording you may use the embedded media player below. You may also subsribe to my iTunes podcast (free) and be updated whenever I release a new recording. You may also visit this page of my Lisztonian website to download the recording as either an MP3 or WMA file - this will provide a better playback experience. Thank you for your support and for enjoying my music.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Si Jing Ye Takes 1st Place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

The Gold Medal (1st place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Si Jing Ye (age 16) from China / USA with an additional cash prize of $8,000. What a stunning performer! For her final round of the competition she played Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. Si Jing is a true artist at the piano. Her performance of this work brought innovation and virtuosity to the music.

Si Jing played with a miraculous strength and power that almost seemed impossible from her small and delicate hands. She explored a full pallette of colors, dynamics, and sounds and produced a brilliant work of art that is worthy of great admiration. Truly a fine pianist and in every way worthy of the gold medal that she won. Congratulations, Si Jing Ye, on your great accomplishment and for enhancing the world of piano!

Kenric Tam Takes 2nd Place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

The silver medal (2nd place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Kenric Tam (age 18) from the USA with an additional cash prize of $6,000. For the final round Kenric played Prokofiev's challenging and intense Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16.

One of the things that stood out to me the most with Kenric's performance was his amazing power and endurance. This particular work is very tiring and draws constant energy from the performer. Kenric maintained a great power, strength, and energy throughout the entire performance. He gave a masterful performance that demonstrated his true abilities as an artist and as a fine pianist.

Jonathan Floril Takes 3rd place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artist Competition

The bronze medal (3rd place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Jonathan Floril (age 18) with an additional cash prize of $5,000. Jonathan is a powerful and artful performer. For his final round he played Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 52. I loved some of the fingering techniques he used while at the piano. He made the music look easy and simple with his quick-paced hands and stunningly accurate playing.

He brought out tones and colors to the music that I had not heard previously in this concerto. His trills were amazing and beautiful; and his range of dynamics left the mysteries of the piano completely exposed. Jonathan proved himself a brilliant artist, pianist, and musician.

Hin Yat Mozar Tsang Takes 4th place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

At the conclusion of the 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition Mozar Tsang (age 15) from Hong Kong took home 4th place with a cash prize of $4,000.

Mozar Tsang was an absolutely delightful performer and person. For his final round he performed Shostakovich's Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102. This is a technically challenging piece and Mozar played it stunningly. He demonstrated a maturity for his art and had no reservations in taking risks with his interpretation and performance.

One of the great things about watching this young performer is seeing how he offers his emotions, feelings, and thoughts to be so prominently displayed to his audience. It is not easy to put one's emotions on display for such an audience, but Mozar has no reservations with putting his entire self into his music. He was truly an outstanding performer and fine artist.

Beatrice Rana Takes 6th Place in the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

Beatrice Rana (age 15) from Italy took 6th place in the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition with a cash prize of $2,000. She performed Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. Throughout the entire performance she demonstrated a great technical prowess for the piano. She had a daring boldness to her interpretation and brought many innovations to the work. I was especially impressed with her octave runs. She executed them with great velocity, accuracy, but maintained great clarity and expression.

I especially enjoyed her wide range of tempo and dynamics. She painted a beautiful picture of emotion for her audience and drew them into her performance with ease. Her music was exciting, powerful, delicate, and beautiful.

Nansong Huang Takes 5th place at the 2008 Young Artist Competition

In the final Rounds of the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition Nansong Huang performed Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. This is a very uncommon work to perform for a competition and Nansong pulled it off extremely well.

His technique seemed impeccable. At times, his music seemed almost magical. When he played the popular 18th variation I was deeply moved by the interpretation and thoughtfulness he demonstrated. He was then able to transition immediately into the 19-20th variations with great momentum and force.

Nansong Huang played as though the piano were an extension of him. The piano was no longer an instrument to be played, but rather, became a part of the artist himself. What wonderful music this young artist can produce!

Nansong took 5th place at the conclusion of the competition with a cash prize of $3,000. I look forward to hearing him perform in the future.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yen-Yu (Jenny) Chen Age 14 USA

A quote from Jenny Chen reads, "I was asked to play for people and I discovered how much fun it is to share my music with others." Jenny, as much fun as you have sharing your music with others, we have just as much, if not more fun listening to you play :)

Jenny gave a wonderful performance in this 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artist Competition. She had fun with her music and yet took her performance and the compositions very seriously. I have to say that her fun and smiley performance was very refreshing due to the stressful nature of a competition.

Jenny (Yen-Yu) Chen's first piece for the 2nd round was Haydn's Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI/50. She did some wonderful things with this piece and I especially enjoyed her interpretation and performance of the 2nd movement.

Her second piece was Chopin's Tarantella in A-flat Major, Op. 43, which proved her to have an excellent technique. This was followed by Chopin's Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1. Her Nocturne was gorgeous and really pulled me into it. She had a delicate ear for the sounds of the piano and adapted quickly and responsively to the piano on which she was performing (a Steinway Model D).

Her final piece was Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 14. With this piece, she proved herself to be a wonderful artist.

Overall, her 2nd round proved to be an emotionally charged performance. She really connected with her audience and pulled them into the emotion and power of the music she was playing. Her performance, according to my watch, may have gone over her allotted 35 minutes, which may have been a major contributor to her not making it into the final rounds. The timing of competitions are extremely strict. But despite her not making it into the finals, I expect we will see many great things from Yen-Yu (Jenny) Chen in the future! What a wonderful musician she is!

Chengcheng Yao Age 16 China

I was immediately impressed with Chengcheng when I read a quote from her that reads, "I hope to perform in the places where classical music is not in popularization, and let everyone in the world began to love it." This is a noteworthy goal and I certainly believe that she can and will accomplish it!

Chengcheng played four very difficult pieces for the 2nd round of the Gina Bachauer 2008 Young Artists Competition. She began her program with Czerny's Variations on a Theme by Rode "La Ricordanza", Op. 33. I think this was an excellent piece to choose. Czerny is not all that common in performances, although EVERY pianist is familiar with his work because he wrote so many technique exersizes. Chengcheng has obviously fine-tuned her technique through the use of Czerny's music and this showed in this performance. She really had excellent technique and a wonderful expression throughout this work. Her runs were crisp and delightful.

Her second work was Ravel's Scarbo from Gaspard de le nuit. I really enjoyed her interpretation of the opening of this piece. Her dynamics were superb and she had a great balance and use of volume changes.

Chengcheng then played Chopin's Berceuse, Op. 57. This is a tricky piece to play. In the hands of a not-so-good performer, this piece can be disastrous. But Chengcheng Yao played this piece beautifully! One of the tricks to this piece is to keep the left hand expressive and meaningful despite the fact that it repeats the same measure for almost the entire work. Chengcheng did such a wonderful job of this that I could have listened to just her left hand and still come away touched by her music! I was deeply moved by her performance of Chopin's Berceuse.

Her final piece was Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 - another difficult work. She used some very interesting tempo changes throughout the piece and experimented with a variety of sounds and colors. It turned out wonderfully. I loved listening to her play this piece as well as all of her others.

Chengcheng, although you did not make it to the final round, you certainly gave a 1st class performance! I was impressed and in awe at the grandeur of your performance. Thank you for your beautiful music!

Song Choi Age 18 USA

For the second round of the 2008 Gina Bachauer Competition Song Choi performed 3 pieces. Her first was Sonata in D Major, K. 311 by Mozart. Song had excellent expression throughout this piece. I especially enjoyed her interpretation of the 2nd movement. She had a very light pedal throughout the 2nd movement that really enhanced the natural overtones and subtle nuances of the instrument.

Song Choi then played the first movement of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58. She brought out some interesting but effective rhythm changes and embellishments that I enjoyed. She also had a good balance between the dominant voice and bringing out secondary sounds and expressions.

Her final piece was Ravel's Ondine from Gaspard de la nuit. She did an excellent job of keeping the melody moving despite the changing hands, varied rhythms, and fluctuating accompanyment. Overall, I was very impressed with Song Choi's performance. She has an excellent ear for her music and I wish her the best in her coming career. She gave a wonderful performance.

And the 6 Finalists Are...

Last night I attended the evening session of the 2nd round of the Gina Bachauer 2008 Young Artists Competition. I heard four wonderful performances. Within about an hour of the last performance the jury announced the six finalists of the competition. I only had the chance to attend the performances of nine competitors, and none of the nine I attended made it to the final round. So I cannot give any commentary for the finalists, but hopefully I'll have something to say after the final round concludes this evening.

I'll post individual commentary about the performers I was impressed with last night in alternate posts; but here are the six finalists for the 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition (not ranked in any order):
  • Nansong Huang (age 14 from China)
  • Jonathan Floril (age 18 from Spain)
  • Hin Yat Mozar Tsang (age 15 from Hong Kong)
  • Beatrice Rana (age 15 from Italy)
  • Si Jing Ye (age 16 from Chine/USA)
  • Kenric Tam (age 18 from USA)
To all of these great pianists - good luck at tonight's performance!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 1 of the Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition 2008

I am posting this a couple of days late, but I was able to attend the evening session of the Bachauer Young Artists Competition on Tuesday. I had the opportunity to hear 5 talented musicians perform a variety of composers and works. I do not have any particular commentary on any of these performances, but here is what was performed:

Hao Tian (Tim) Zhang (Age 14 from Canada)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude and Fugue in G Major
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven - Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3
  • Franz Liszt - Mephisto Waltz, No. 1

Marie Kyone (Age 18 from Japan)
  • Franz Josef Haydn - Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI/52
  • Olivier Messiaen - Regard de l'Esprit de joie

Joong-Hun Cho (Age 15 from Korea)
  • Frederic Chopin - Etude in F Major, Op. 10, No. 8
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Sonata in A Major, K. 331
  • Robert Schumann - Allegro in B Minor, Op. 8

Sara Vujadinovic (Age 17 Serbia)
  • Frederic Chopin - Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36
  • Claude Debussy - Masques, Feux d'artifice
  • Maurice Ravel - Alborada del gracioso

Asami Arai (Age 18 from Japan)
  • Franz Josef Haydn - Piano Sonata in A-flat Major, Hob.XVI/46
  • Frederic Chopin - Scherzo in E Major, OP. 54

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beethoven Sonata Pathetique (Patetica) Op. 13 No. 8: II Adagio cantabile
Dedicated to My Sister, Jiselle

Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique is one of his most popular Sonatas. This recording is only the 2nd movement of the Sonata, Adagio cantabile. I discussed some about this Sonata in a previous post:

For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it is quite a popular Sonata of [Beethoven's]. The opening Grave section is a fine example of Beethoven's unique style and how he breaks away from the Classical genre of his day transitioning into the Romantic period. This work was written during his younger years but, in my opinion, is still full of the innovation that Beethoven produced throughout his lifetime. The second movement of this piece is a beautiful Adagio. Beethoven indicated Adagio cantabile for the second movement, where "cantabile" translates to something like "singable" or "song-like". I would describe cantabile as something you find yourself singing along to even though there are no lyrics. This can be a bit tricky in this piece because the melody is carried in the right hand along with a moving accompanyment.

This recording is lovingly dedicated to my sister, Jiselle, who doesn't really keep up with my music much, so I needed to dedicate something to her just to get her to listen ;) Just kidding (kind of). Jiselle and I grew up as great friends. We spent most of our childhood playing together - usually her bossing me around. I didn't mind so much though, because her friendship meant a lot to me. We still keep in close contact and my family misses having her close by; but we cherish the times that we have had together and look forward to her visits with great anticipation. Jiselle, I love you very much and I hope that your life will bring you the clarity, peace and serenity that this music so represents.

I have always loved this Sonata, more specifically this second movement. I studied the other movements of this Sonata back when I was in high school and haven't done much with it since. Hopefully one of these days I'll get around to relearning the other two movements so that I can post those on my Lisztonian site as well. Until then, I hope you will enjoy the second movement only of Beethoven's popular Sonata Op. 13 No. 8 - Pathetique! You can find this recording on my Lisztonian website or by clicking here. You may also subscribe to my free podcast on iTunes which will keep you updated when new recordings become available. You may also use the embedded player below to listen to this selection online. Thank you for your support!

Ching Toa Aristo Sham Wins the 2008 Junior Bachauer Competition

In my previous post I mentioned a performance by Ching-Toa Aristo Sham. This evening I attended the final rounds of the 2008 Junior Bachauer competition, and to no surprise this talented young artist won 1st prize in the competition.

The final round was sold out to a good sized crowd. Unfortunately, the competition was delayed by three hours due to a power failure and the entire competition had to be moved to an alternate location.

There were six finalists (in order of performance and left to right in the picture):
  • Qi Xu - 13 years old from China
  • George Li - 12 years old from USA
  • Jan Lisiecki - 13 years old from Canada
  • Ching Toa Aristo Sham - 12 years old from Hong Kong
  • Yi Jia Wang - 12 years old from China
  • Anna Han - 12 years old from USA
They all gave amazing performances - even despite the late hour (it was almost midnight when the performances concluded). George Li took second place and Ching Toa took first place. I was so impressed with all of their performances.
The final round consisted of concerti with piano accompanyment taking the place of the orchestra. I was very impressed with George Li's Concerto No. 2 by Saint-Saens. It was exciting and he definitely has a great stage presence about it. Ching Toa's Concerto No. 1 by Beethoven was amazing. He has a subtle power to his music that amplifies the performance ten-fold. His technique was crisp and his musicianship was beyond his years.

What an amazing experience it has been to participate in the Gina Bachauer Junior competition. I am looking forward to the Young Artist competition that begins next week. Again, for those of you in the Salt Lake area, I encourage you to attend. You will be amazed and astounded at the great music produced by such young artists.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ching Toa Aristo Sham Gives a Stunning Performance

Yesterday I decided to take my daughter to the the Gina Bachauer competition. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for her to attend a piano recital since each competitor's performance in this first round is only 25 minutes and she is still so young that something much longer would be hard for her to sit through.

We arrived just before the final competitor in the afternoon session. The competitor was 12-year old Ching Toa Aristo Sham from Hong Kong. He played some Bach, Haydn, and Mendelsshon. His performance was one of the most amazing musical experiences I've had. He played with a musical maturity that most college-level musicians don't have (myself included). Typically a 12-year old musician, even the talented ones, seem to be copying another musician's style and artistry; but this young artist seemed truly that - an artist - and not just an imitator. Don't get me wrong - all of the other young competitors are amazing and what they will surely become is wonderful to think about. I am simply stating that I felt as though Ching-Tao was ages ahead of the typical artist of his age (even among the prodigious competitors drawn to the Bachauer).

I look forward to the great music he will produce in the future!

So far, the Bachauer has been a most rewarding experience - as it always is. If you live near the Salt Lake area, there is still over one week of competition left, so be sure to get some tickets and attend!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 No 4 in E-flat

So I have finally gotten around to recording another of Schubert's four Impromptus in Op. 90. I previously had recorded No. 4 in A-flat, so here is No. 2 in E-flat. I hope to record No. 1 and No. 3 in the near future.

This is a fun Impromptu to play. I especially enjoy playing measures 25-34 as well as measures 135 through the end of that section. I first studied this piece several years ago and didn't really play it again until recently. Back when I was first learning it my daughter used to run into the room to dance when I would play the closing coda section. She loved dancing to it! When I picked it up again just a week or two ago my youngest son started dancing to the very same section. I found it interesting that they were both drawn to the exact same part of the music. So when you listen to the last 30 or so measures of this recording you can imagine a little child dancing along with it :)

I am dedicating this recording to my little sister, Nessa. She learned this piece a while back and now when I play it I can't help but think of her. I am priveleged to be her sibling.

To listen to this recording you may visit my Lisztonian website or click here to go directly to the download page. You may also subscribe to all of my recordings (including this one) through my free iTunes podcast. That is the best way to be automatically updated when I release a new recording. For convenience, you may also use the embedded media player below.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Talented Young Artist - Reta

Tonight my family had the opportunity to attend the solo recital for a young lady in our neighborhood, Reta (I'll omit her last name for privacy reasons). She played a portion of Mendelssohn's popular Song Without Words as well as Beethoven's entire Sonata No. 8 (Opus 13) - Pathetique (or Patetica). She played the Mendelssohn beautifully and had a great array of dynamics throughout the piece.

Her Beethoven Sonata was superb. For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it is quite a popular Sonata of his. The opening Grave section is a fine example of Beethoven's unique style and how he breaks away from the Classical genre of his day transitioning into the Romantic period. This work was written during his younger years but, in my opinion, is still full of the innovation that Beethoven produced throughout his lifetime. The second movement of this piece is a beautiful Adagio. Beethoven indicated Adagio cantabile for the second movement, where "cantabile" translates to something like "singable" or "song-like". I would describe cantabile as something you find yourself singing along to even though there are no lyrics. This can be a bit tricky in this piece because the melody is carried in the right hand along with a moving accompanyment. Reta did a wonderful job of bringing out this "song-like" melody. As it happens, I was already planning on releasing a recording of this second movement on my Lisztonian website within the next 2-3 weeks - so stay tuned for that.

I appreciated the fact that the recital was treated informally, so we were able to bring our children. I always love opportunities to expose my children to good music. It is so encouraging to attend performances of young artists because it reminds me that classical piano music is still alive and well!

Reta, you did an excellent job! Brava! You played beautifully and I look forward to hearing your music again in the future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The 2008 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition

The time has arrived! It is June and in Utah that means it is piano month! This is all thanks to Dr. Paul Pollei who founded the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation many years ago. It has since become one of the world's finest international piano competitions. I have a deep love and respect for Dr. Pollei. I studied piano with him for several years through college and have considered him a dear friend ever since. I am honestly not quite sure why he ever even let me into his office to study with him, but he did!

This year's competition will actually combine both the Junior and Young Artists competitions and do them back-to-back. What a treat :) I've already purchased my festival tickets. If you have never had the opportunity to attend a piano competition, then you certainly should consider this one. It is amazing to see the talent in these youth. They come from all over the world to participate in this event.

I always purchase festival tickets, which allows me to come and go throughout the competitions as much as my work/family schedule will allow. This year I will be home with the kids during the first week of the competition while my wife is out of town (she is a leader for a youth camp group). So my tickets for the first week are open to anybody who would like to attend! If you are interested in attending, then I encourage you to support the competition and purchase some tickets. However, if purchasing the tickets is the difference between going and not going, then JUST USE MINE! It will be worth every effort to attend and you will not regret it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Poet Speaks
Dedicated to Judy Stockett

Schumann's Opus 15 is one of his popular and well-known works. It consists of 13 short pieces composed about various "scenes of childhood" (thus the title - Kinderszenen - Scenes of Childhood). This particular "scene" is the final scene in the work and is titled "Der Dichter spricht" or "The Poet Speaks." As many of my friends and family know, I love poetry. I am not a poet, but am an appreciator of this fine literary art. In fact, I read poetry to my children almost every night before I read them their bedtime stories and put them to bed. Good poetry inspires the soul - as does good music. For this reason, I particularly love this work because it is a musical interpretation of a poet speaking.

This recording is dedicated to a wonderful woman, Judy Stockett and her dear husband, Jerry Stockett. I have known this couple only a few years but have grown a deep admiration for the both of them. We are both members of the same faith and so we attend church meetings together regularly. Over these last couple of years Judy and Jerry have been an inspiration to me during times of trial and difficulty. They are the epitome of optimism and joy. I have especially enjoyed having several opportunities to hear Judy speak of her personal experiences and am uplifted by her natural love for life, hope, and the "brighter side" of everything.

Judy, along with this recording, there is a poem that makes me think of you. This fits in perfectly with this musical work by Schumann, and is a great representation of how my family feels towards the great person you are:

Worth While
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855 - 1919)

It is easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows by like a song,
but the man worth while is one who will smile, When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble, And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth Is the smile that shines through tears.
It is easy enough to be prudent, When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin Is luring your soul away;
But it's only a negative virtue Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honor on earth Is the one that resists desire.
By the cynic, the safe, the fallen, Who had no strength for the strife,
The world's highway is cumbered to-day; They make up the sum of life.
But the virtue that conquers passion, And the sorrow that hides in a smile,
It is these that are worth the homage on earth For we find them but once in a while.

Judy, you are an inspiration to us all.
This recording may be downloaded here or through my iTunes podcast. You may also use the embedded player below to listen to this recording.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Donation List

I have now added a page on my Lisztonian site to commemorate all those who have donated towards my future piano. This page will also track how far I am in my goal towards buying a Steinway model B piano! So be sure to check out the list of doners!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pachelbel's Canon in D Minor

In D what? Did you say in D Minor?

For all of the musicians out there who are familiar with Pachelbel's famous Canon in D you will immediately do a double-take at the title of this post! Why? Because this famous chamber work was written in the key of D Major and not in the key of D Minor. However, this very informal recording is an arrangement in the key of D Minor.

I recorded this just last night as a last-minute joke for work. One of our company's products uses an arrangment of Pachelbel's Canon in D (major) and the title was incorrectly displayed as "Canon in D Minor." So I sent out an email to a few of the people at work with a link to this recording and suggested that instead of correcting the text, we could simply replace the sound track with this recording. I'm sure Pachelbel wouldn't mind!

So here you have a very dreary-feeling version of Pachelbel's famous Canon in D, played in the minor key. If you are not familiar with this piece, it is an extremely popular work for weddings. My co-workers joked that this could be the processional music played at a divorce court instead.

Please forgive the piano, I didn't have time to tune it before recording like I usually try to do. Also, please look past the many imperfections -- keep in mind that I was converting this to minor as I was playing... it wasn't arranged or prepared in advance. Thus there are several imperfections. Oh well, it was just intended to be a joke anyhow :) I hope you enjoy it!

You can download the WMA by right-clicking this link and selecting "Save Target As..." or the MP3 by right-clicking this link and selecting "Save Target As..." or you can listen to it through the embedded player provided below.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Happy Memorial Day

It is a cold and rainy day here in Utah. Not ideal for visiting the gravesites of family, but nonetheless a day for remembering our ancestry. I've been thinking a lot of my paternal grandmother these last several weeks. She past away several years ago. Her name is Belva (Coon) Jones. When I was in highschool I made an album of music to sell so that I could help pay for my missionary service in Japan. When my grandma found out that I had made a recording of piano music, she insisted on buying one. She didn't have a CD player at the time and so I told her I would make a tape recording for her. She asked what the difference was and so I explained to her some of the differences. When I told her I was able to fit two more pieces of music on the CD than on the tape, she insisted that she needed to have the CD. So she went out and purchased a CD player to accompany my CD. What a sweetheart. My sister also came out with an album of her own music shortly thereafter, and to my knowledge, that CD player was only regularly used to play those two CDs.

One of the works on my CD was Franz Liszt's Nocturne in A-flat, Liebestraume, or "Dream of Love." My grandmother would frequently tell me that this was one of her favorite songs. "We used to listen and dance to this during the depression," she would recall, with her eye-lashes batting, her body swaying, and an overly dramatic expression of love on her face. Then, in a whisper, she would lean to me and say, "I want you to play this at my funeral." Year after year, she would remind me of this. The night that she past away my father called to let me know. I sat down at the piano and played through Liszt's Nocturne, over and over again. I guess that was my way of mourning the loss of my grandmother. A few days later, I fulfilled her request and played the Nocturne (Liebestraume) at her funeral service.

So now, several years later, it is memorial day and I'm sitting here thinking of my grandmother. Before I get the day started, I think I'll go sit down and play through "Dream of Love" and reminisce on my heritage. You are welcome to join me in listening to this beautiful Nocturne. I've recorded this piece several times (because I almost always include it in public recitals) and have one of these recording posted on my Lisztonian site. You can click here to visit that page on my Lisztonian site, or you may use the embedded player below.

Have a happy memorial day, and be sure to spend some time remembering the great people in your heritage.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chopin Nocturne in E Minor
Dedicated to Two Individuals

Chopin's Nocturne in E-minor is one of my favorite Nocturnes. It is a short, yet profound work of art that takes the listener through several of life's most important emotions. It can stir the soul and awaken the spirit. This nocturne can carry a listener through a world of sorrow, anguish, joy, and hope all within just a few minutes. For this reason I would like to dedicate this recording to two very special people. The first is a new friend of mine, Randy. The second is my father, Keith Jones. Both of these individuals have been diagnosed with devastating illnesses. I have sat many hours with my father and spent many, many more just being flooded with the several emotions I mentioned above. As my wife will confirm, I am not one to openly share my emotions on a regular basis - at least not verbally. I do, however, try to let my spirit speak through my music. I have learned that the most powerful of emotions is that of love. So it is with sincere love that I dedicate this recording of Chopin's Nocturne in E-minor to my dear father, Keith Jones, and my friend, Randy. Let the examples of these two great men remind us to always keep hope and optimism in our hearts.

To listen to this recording, you can visit this page of my Lisztonian site, subscribe to my iTunes podcast (free), or use the embedded player below. I hope you enjoy my music!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Create a Custom CD of Piano Music!

After receiving a few request from people I've decided to add the ability to order CDs from my Lisztonian website.

All of my recordings can still be downloaded free! You do not need to purchase a CD to listen to free classical piano music.

However, if you would like to purchase a CD then you can click here and select all of the songs you want on your CD (up to 70 minutes of music).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Don Giovanni

Last night my wife and I attended the Utah Opera's performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni! I thought that it was fabulous. The music was wonderful. I've always enjoyed the music to Don Giovanni, but this was my first time actually seeing the opera. It was a wonderful experience.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mozart's Don Giovanni, let me give you a brief summary (in my own, uneducated words).

Don Giovanni is Mozart's creative genius combined with the legend of Don Juan all put to extraordinary music. Don Giovanni is the main character and is a womanizer to say the least. He has an easily intimidated servant who, although outwardly disagreeing with his master's actions, is somehow always convinced to remain faithful to his master's bidding. The opera opens with Don Giovanni attacking a girl who is currently engaged to be wed. The girl's father appears and attempts to fight of the attacker (who is disguised at the time) but ends up dead. While the duel is taking place, the daughter has run off to find help. She returns to find her father dead. Her fiance swears to avenge her father's death.

To make a long story short, the young lady and her fiance spend the rest of the opera chasing down Don Giovanni (they eventually find out he was the attacker). However, before they are able to kill him, he is confronted by the statue of the Comendatore (the girl's father). Yes, that's right - a statue. There is a statue of the Comendatore in the cemetary. While Don Giovanni and his servent are fleeing the mob that is after them, they end up in the cemetary where the statue begins to speak to them. Don Giovanni, thinking it to be some sort of trickery (while being inwardly frightened) invites the statue to dinner. He and his servant return home and prepare a marvelous meal, which Don Giovanni begins to partake of right away - he does this to show that he is not at all afraid of the "ghost" of his victim. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't a trick, and the Comendatore shows up for dinner! He (the statue), in turn invites Don Giovanni to return with him for dinner (implying the after-life). Don Giovanni accepts the offer, at which point he is told to "shake on it"... he does and the apparition's cold hand graps onto Don Giovanni's and does not let go. He commands Don Giovanni to repent several times, but Don Giovanni refuses. So the flames of hell come and drag him away. After this ghastly scene ends, the other characters enter the home looking for Don Giovanni only to find his frightened servant. The servant relays the story and they all rejoice and sing the moral of the story - which is that evil-doers are no good :)

My summary does not do the opera justice by any means. It is actually a very deep, complex, and yet witty, whimsical work of art. If you have never seen a performance of Don Giovanni, then check your local opera house or universities and find out when the next performance will be!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Over the last several days I have been publishing new recordings as dedications for mother's day. Please be sure to read the following posts and listen to the accompanying music:

Mother's Day Dedication #3
Chopin Nocturne in E-flat Major
For My Precious Wife

To my cherished companion:

Happy Mother's Day!

We have been married for almost 7 years now and each year my love and admiration for you grow. These past two years have especially brought a heightened and deepened respect for what a tremendous person you are. Our children our blessed to have such a dedicated and nurturing mother; and I am blessed to have such a strong and loving soulmate.

I recorded this Nocturne one evening while you were away. I didn't have time to pracitce because I wanted it to be a surprise for today; so I apologize for the many imperfections - I suppose that is just a reflection on my many imperfections that you already glance over on a daily basis.

If I were to title this recording, I would call it "First" as it represents to me the many "firsts" that we have shared together: our first date, our first kiss, our first tears, our first child, our first gift, our first success, and even our first argument. Each of these firsts have brought us closer and strengthened the eternal bond of marriage between us. We have an endless supply of firsts still waiting for us, and as my mind reflects on this, I feel that same twitterpation I felt as we first began our courtship.

I love you dearly and look forward to our life together.

You can click here to download this recording to your computer or you may use the player below to listen.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Dedication #2
Mozart Sonata in C Major K 300h (330)
Dedicated to Mom

Mozart's Sonata in C Major (K 300h) is one of my favorites. I fell in love with it after purchasing a Lang Lang CD with this piece on it. I encourage you to buy a copy of that CD to hear a master musician at work :)

For those of you with finely trained ears, you will notice that this is actually in the key of F Major and not C Major. This recording is only the Andante cantabile section of the Sonata, and this section was written in the key of F Major.

I am dedicating this recording to my mom :) I chose this piece because Mozart is her favorite composer and this Sonata is just such a beautiful work. My mom is the one who originally taught me to play the piano and I owe my passion for music to her -- thanks mom!

Our Mother - author unknown
Hundreds of stars in the pretty sky,
Hundreds of shells on the shore together.
Hundreds of birds that go singing by,
Hundreds of birds in the sunny weather;

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

To listen to this recording you can click here and download it to your computer. You may also subscribe to my iTunes podcast or simply use the player below.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mother's Day Dedication #1
To My Mom-In-Law

I'm breaking out of my typical weekly (or bi-weekly) posting this week in light of the Mother's Day holiday. This first recording is dedicated with great love and admiration to my sweet mom-in-law. I like to use the term "mom-in-law" because it seems more personal :) I love my mom-in-law very much. She raised a wonderful daughter and two sons who I also greatly admire (James and David). She is intelligent, talented, fun, and thoughtful.

I chose to dedicate Schubert's Serenada (arranged by Franz Liszt) to her because this is one of her favorite classical works. It is a popular vocal work by Franz Schubert but has been transcribed for a variety of other instruments due to the popularity of the piece.

Happy Mother's Day Omonee!

To listen to my recording of Schubert's Serenada you may click here or you can use the player provided below. You may also subsribe to my podcast at iTunes to stay updated on all of my new releases.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chopin - Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor
Dedicated to the Lloyd Family

Chopin's Nocturnes are among the best of classical music! This particular Nocturne was written in 1830 (while Chopin was about 20 years old). It was written around the same time as his famous 2nd piano concerto and even included a note with the first edition that specifically mentioned it as a "warm-up" of sorts to his second concerto. Chopin never had this work published. It was not released to the public until 1875, after Chopin had past away (he died in 1849). Thus it was published "posthumously", which simply means it was published after his death. Therefore it was never assigned an opus number by Chopin and remains a stand-alone Nocturne.

I am dedicating this recording to a friend of mine and his family — Steve Lloyd. He and his family have been wonderful supporters of my music. He also has been the source for many of the subtle features and changes on my Lisztonian site. Steve and his family represent the good in humanity and they provide all of us with a good example of what a family ought to be. Steve is also the founder of a family-oriented newsletter service that provides an ingenious solution for helping families stay in touch. So it is with great sincerity that I dedicate this Nocturne to Steve and his family - thanks for your support and encouragement!

You can listen to Chopin's Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor by visiting browsing my Lisztonian Website. You will have the option of downloading the recording as an MP3, WMA, or you may listen directly through the site. You may also find all of my recordings provided commercial-free through iTunes! For your convenience, I've also included a playbar at the bottom of this post.

If you enjoy this recording, please consider making a donation towards the purchase of a new Steinway piano!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Largo by Frederic Chopin

This is another recording from the book, Classical Music for the Church Service: Volume 2. Although Frederic Chopin wasn't really known for writing music for worship (unlike Johann Sebastian Bach), you will understand why this selection was included in a volume of music for worship services. It has a very hymn-like feel and structure. It is a simple melody moving in a series of chords. It also ends with a cadence that moves from the fifth back to the dominant. This is very typical in church music. For example, at the end of a sacred work, you'll often hear a concluding "A-men" held out at the end. That is quite often a cadence from the fifth to the dominant to help the music feel a firm resolution. Chopin ends this piece in a similar way. However, his conclusion is more subtle for two reasons:
  1. For the second-to-last chord he uses a B-flat seventh instead of a plain-old B-flat Major chord. This ads a harmonic disonance (yes, I know that is an oxymoron) helping to level out the grandoise feeling that might be there otherwise.
  2. For the final chord he leaves out the B-flat and writes only the dominant and third (E-flat and G). The B-flat is what ties the dominant of the B-flat seventh and the fifth of the E-flat Major chords together to give it a prominent feeling of resolve. He leaves out that note to create a more subtle conclusion to the piece. I should note that the B-flat is still in the listeners mind and ears because during the interval between the last two chords the left hand steps down from the dominant (E-flat) to the B-flat, then down one more to the E-flat for the final chord.

With all of that information fresh in your mind, now go and enjoy listening to Frederic Chopin's Largo BI 109 at my Lisztonian site or by using the convenient player below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What if I don't reach my goal?
What happens to existing donations?

I've now been asked this question several times and so I think it is worth a post.

Q: What if I don't reach my goal? What happens to existing donations?

A: At some point, if I still haven't reached my goal, then enough is enough! I still plan on providing free recordings, but will eventually buckle down and do one of the following:
  1. If I have enough money, then I'll downgrade my wishful thinking from a Steinway model B to a Boston Grand (still made by the Steinway company) - pictured to the right. These pianos are still excellent and are about half the price of a real Steinway.
  2. If I still can't afford a new piano and there is no obvious way that I can use the money to improve the quality of my music and recordings, then I'll donate the funds to the Gina Bachauer Foundation or some other worthy piano-related institution.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How Often should I Tune My Piano?

A question I am very commonly asked is, "how often should I tune my piano"?

The answer:
As often as it needs it, and as often as you can afford to!

Concert pianos are tuned before every performance and are often tuned/adjusted during intermission. Recording pianos are also tuned and voiced regularly. I've heard rumor that some of the best recording studios will tune multiple times a day -- that doesn't surprise me because it really comes down to "as often as it needs to be tuned." Especially in a recording, an off-tune (or poorly voiced) piano will be extremely noticeable.

The next question that typically follows is, "so how often do you tune your piano?"

The answer:
As often as it needs it, and as often as I have time for it!

When I got my first piano (the studio upright I currently record on) I had a guy from the piano store come and tune it for me. As I watched him, I realized that I was completely at his mercy and that I would need to constantly call him to come and fix things. This would never do, especially since it costs around $75 per tuning, not counting voicing and regulating. So for a low-end upright piano, it just wasn't worth it. At the same time, I couldn't live with a piano that was constantly out of tune. So I went online and bought myself a basic piano tuning kit. I then went to the BYU library (where I was currently enrolled for school) and searched for books on piano tuning. I found an extremely old and very thick book about piano tuning throughout history and so I sat down in the middle of the isle (fortunately this was a very low-traffic section of the library) and I proceeded to read all about tuning pianos. I learned some very interesting facts about tuning harpsicords and the early pianoforte instruments -- all very useful knowledge ;) Then I opened up my piano and started fiddling with it.

It took me a good year or so to really get the hang of it. At first, it took me 6-7 hours to tune my piano. Now I've got it down to about an hour. However, with all of the recording I've been doing recently, I've been keeping it in tune and so it only takes me about 30 minutes to keep it in tune before each recording session. You'll notice in some of my recordings that I sometimes miss a few keys -- and sometimes it is just the piano. There are a couple of really stubborn strings that go out of tune almost immediately and then there are a few that must be poorly tempered because they just never go perfectly in tune :( If your feeling sorry for me, now is a good time to ask you to make a donation towards my Steinway ;)

So for all of you piano lovers out there, if you are serious about keeping your piano in good shape, here is what I recommend:

  • Have your piano tuned at least every 3 months if you can afford it.

  • If you can't afford it, or if you want it tuned more frequently, invest in a basic tuning kit. You might be frustrated at first, but after a while you'll get the hang of it.

  • If neither of the above are an option, then please get your piano tuned at least once a year. This will help keep the strings happy.

Oh, and tuning is NOT the same as voicing and regulating. I still recommend that you have a professional help you with that. Every piano brand is different and so the needs will differ slightly, especially with voicing. The Steinway is the most amazing piano when it comes to voicing because you can customize the sound in so many different ways; boy, I wish I had one of those -- hint, hint!

I hope this has been helpful to somebody :-)